ALPS Resilience represented South African civil society at a weeklong workshop hosted by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) and the Security Institute for Governance and Leadership (SIGLA) entitled “National Strategies to Prevent and Counter Violent Extremism in Africa.” The program focused on African “periphery” countries that may not experience terrorism as entrenched insurgency movements, such as Nigeria or Somalia, but still play an important role in combating terror on the continent. Periphery countries may also experience isolated incidents of inspired terrorist attacks, for example the attack on a Shia mosque in KwaZulu-Natal in May 2018 that left one person dead and two injured. Periphery countries can help fight the global threat of terrorism in several ways. First, they can contribute troops or funds to extinguishing terrorist groups in core countries. Second, they can limit their complicity in terrorist activities by ensuring the proper management of their borders, communications infrastructure and banking institutions. Third, they can conduct initiatives to promote tolerance, social cohesion and inclusion in order to prevent inspired attacks on domestic soil.
Countries are more likely to achieve security and defense-related goals if they have a strategy. Creating national counter-terrorism (CT) or countering violent extremism (CVE) strategies helps countries identify long-term security objectives and complement national actions with regional and sub-regional approaches. However, creating strategies is not without its challenges. How can countries respond to the UN’s call to create national strategies to CVE in a way that fosters local ownership and authorship, avoiding a situation where countries are merely “ticking boxes” to satisfy international protocols, norms or donors? This involves balancing international best practice with local expertise. It is also important to avoid the stigmatization of certain communities, which can create grievances and therefore paradoxically create new threats. This involves balancing security concerns with human rights, including the freedom of speech.
ALPS Resilience advocates for African governments to develop national CVE strategies and appropriate plans of action for implementing CVE measures in a manner that is contextually relevant and respectful of human rights. We support African governments in their efforts to CVE by conducting original research on the sources of vulnerability and resilience amongst at-risk populations and designing custom interventions to increase the social capital available to at-risk populations to reject extremist ideology.